I have enough clothes and shoes...said no woman EVER!
They call it "retail therapy" for a reason and that's because shopping releases endorphins, reduces stress and is cheaper than a psychiatrist. Shopping may even help you live longer (like you need another reason). So in the name public health I have incorporated shopping into my daily healthy lifestyle and started exploring London's markets.
I love the feel of the markets, they have textures, grit, smells, and personalities that you are not going to find strolling down Oxford or Regents Street. Don’t get me wrong, I love that shopping experience too but it you really want to get to know London you cannot do that without experiencing her fabulous markets. You noticed I referred to London in the feminine…that’s because anyone who has so many shoes has to be a girl.
My 5 Favourite Markets In London… And Why I Love Them
Ever since Julia Roberts was “just a girl standing in front of a boy asking him to love her” in the movie “Notting Hill” tourists have flocked to this street market. This primarily is a Saturday market full of stalls selling vintage clothing, antiques, silver knick knacks, food and a whole bunch of stuff that I could not begin to describe.
Portobello Market is famous for its half mile long stretch of antiques (largest in the world) and brings out an eclectic array of people and artists alike. But be prepared, this can get very busy, especially in the summer. If you want most of the experience but not all of the crowds I suggest going late in the day Friday. All the stores are open, some of the vendors are getting the jump on Saturday and it is much easier to see the sights.
Why I Love Portobello Market
Electric Cinema is my favourite place in all of London to see a film. Fab art deco styled theatre. Book a sofa-bed for two and snuggle underneath a cashmere blanket. Their wine list (yes they serve wine) is kept simple. They offer two types of red and two types of white. Just labeled “wine” and “better wine”.
Notting Hill Carnival
A large insane Caribbean summer festival (see my blog about it last year) with colourful parades, graffiti artists, Island music and some of the biggest BBQ grills I have ever seen. Don’t go unless you are liking crowds.
The Vintage Clothes
At the northern end of the market at Portobello and Golbourne there is a great vintage market. Found a great leather jacket and a vintage concert T-Shirt. Tons of funky clothes, old Burberry coats and Barbour jackets if you really want to embrace the traditional English style.
Covent Garden Market
Once a flower, fruit and vegetable market (think My Fair Lady) it is now home to many a vendor selling an exciting arrays of unique handmade crafts, jewellery and antiques. This piazza is beautiful and it is surrounded by some of the world’s best stores and restaurants. Covent Garden has different vendors on different days of the week making it always interesting. Aside from shopping one of my favourite things about this area are the street performers.
The market building has incredible acoustics where I have heard spine-tingling opera, or a fabulous violin player. Also in the courtyards that surround the market there are incredible street performers, acrobats and magicians One singer was so amazing (think “Ed Sheeran” good) I watched his whole set and dropped a 20 in his guitar case.
Why I Love Covent Garden
The Apple Market
Lots of interesting hand-made crafts and bric-a-brac (Brits love that word) to browse through. Spoiler alert, there are no apples sold in the Apple Market...or iPhones.
The Piazza at Christmas
The market is decorated inside and out for Christmas and to say it is magical is an understatement.
Balthazar & Frenchie
Two great world class restaurants. Special shout out to Balthazar who offers a free glass of champagne if you are dining solo.
In the heart of London’s Bangladesh neighbourhood in Shoreditch lies a colourful and ethnic food experience including worldwide food vendors, artisans and clothing shops.
If you love curry (I do not) there are many places claiming they serve “London’s best curry” and as there are more curry houses in London than Mumbai (true fact) they should know a thing or two about curry.
If you want to make a day of it get off at Liverpool Station, walk to Petticoat Lane. It is another market selling cheap clothes, sunglasses etc. You can also visit Spitalfields Market as they are all within reach of each other. You can drop by the Columbian Road Flower Market. The Flower Market is only open on Sunday. I love the flower market, aside from the colourful flora it does offer you a way different aroma than Brick Lane.
Finish the day with a stroll along the canal. It is scenic, there are boat houses and barges slowly moving through and it is a quiet juxtaposition to the crowds of the markets. Truly if the sun is shining this is one my favourite ways to spend a Sunday in London.
Why I Love Brick Lane
At the Old Truman Brewery. Looking for a glam fur coat for Burning Man, your Boho wardrobe for Coachella or a vintage opera cape... well for the opera... then this is your place.
Sunday Up Market
Really unique creative designers, traders and food with a East London vibe.
Great People Watching
So this is for serious foodies. The Borough Market dates back in one form or another for a 1000 years and is situated on the south side of The Thames under London Bridge. It sells almost anything you could possible want in the way of food.
The full market is open from Wednesday to Saturday with its big day Saturday. Imported fruits, artisan cheeses, French truffles, exotic fowl (that may contain shot) to seafood hard to identify, there is every culinary delight you could want. Buy a glass of Prosecco or mulled wine while you sip, shop and savour. Because everything is better with Prosecco. My good friend Tia taught me that.
Why I Love Borough Market
Amazing bakery where I have taken some fancy bread making classes. Love!
I know its crazy to think that you should go to a restaurant when you are surrounded by all this crazy delicious food but Padella is a amazing fresh pasta restaurant that is very reasonably priced. Small daily menu. There is always a line-up but it does move quickly.
The Raclette Food Stall
Only on Saturday can you smell the melting cheese before you can see it. If nothing else you need to watch them scrape the melted cheese over the steaming potatoes. I have heard people oohing.
Situated on a canal Camden Market has a very different vibe to the others. More edgy, more young locals. It has a massive array of vintage clothing stalls where the smell of incense is thick, but I guess that is better than moth balls. Tons of great food stalls plus interesting items like cool antique steamer trunks or old vinyl.
There is a statue of their local girl Amy Winehouse in the Stables Market. Not surprising you’ll find the occasional head shop there too.
Why I Love Camden Market
Totally picturesque and unique. Great walk along the canal. I have walked from there to Primrose Hill and Regents Park. Great places to see and lovely quiet walk.
Cereal Killer Cafe
Ok this is really more for those who did not grow up with Cap’t Crunch cereal OR maybe did and wants to relive those sugary days of childhood. The Cereal Killer Cafe sells nothing but breakfast cereal, over 100 different kinds with over 30 types of milk. Even if you don’t fancy yourself a bowl of Count Chocula you should see it. You can get a corny photo with your head as part of a cereal box.
The Cheese Bar
So pop a couple of Lactaid and immerse yourself into the world of cheese at The Cheese Bar. This is a crazy good gooey place to eat one of the most outrageous grilled cheese sandwiches or best poutine (outside of Canada).
Those are my Top 5 Market in London, but there are many more. I have attached a map that might come in handy when planing your day. You have heard it said that money can’t buy happiness well I believe those people have not shopped the London’s markets.